Tuesday, March 28, 2023

‘Firm action needed to counter Beijing’s South China Sea dominance’


Kolkata, Aug 11 (IANS) Observing that China is endeavouring to dominate South China Sea at will, an American expert on Wednesday stressed the need for firm action by India and the US for ensuring the region remained open for global maritime activities.

Participating through videoconferencing at an event at the American Center here, Peter Dutton, Director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College, said it may take “multiple decades” before China may think of complying with an international tribunal verdict on the South China Sea.

“China building new bases on islands in the southern part of the South China Sea with military capabilities is a significant strategic event. Adding to its existing mainland bases, it is evident that China seeks the capability to dominate the waters of the South China Sea at will.

“There is a potential for South China Sea becoming a Chinese strait rather than an open global maritime component. In that case, counties like India, the US, Japan and Australia will have to formulate economic and political policies according to Beijing’s preferences and interest,” said Dutton.

Harping on the need to maintain the openness of the region and its significance to the entire world, Dutton said it was imperative for like-minded countries to demonstrate firm actions.

“The need is to demonstrate action in a cooperative fashion for the common cause — to maintain the South China Sea as an open global maritime order. The actions required are economic, political and, of course, security.

“While the actions need to be firm, we need to act slowly so that there doesn’t arise a security dilemma and leads to an escalation,” he said.

“However, one should not expect the Chinese government to comply with the tribunal’s findings. It may take a decade or even multiple decades before such a situation arrives,” said the professor.

Talking about China’s continued “aggressive posturing” despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration in July quashing its claims over the South China Sea, Dutton said it was Beijing’s domestic political compulsion.

“China is taking refuge in nationalism to legitimise its aggressive international stand. At a time when its economy is in a flux, it is using nationalism to make its people adhere to the authoritarian regime.

“Of course China’s bid to legitimise its action internationally has resulted in its friends in the region getting far (away from Beijing),” he added.

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